2012 The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) Results

Ultra-Trail du Mont-BlancIt was a long, wet night in the French valleys alongside Mont Blanc where 2,000+ runners took part in a revised 104-kilometer version of The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. The weather and 6,000 meters (20,000′) of climbing challenged all.

As with every European ultramarathon, the pace went out hot and heavy from the start and runners seemed unbothered by the uncooperative weather. Contrary to what often happens, however, two of the early men’s and women’s leaders became the men’s and women’s race winners, François d’Haene (post-race interview) and Lizzy Hawker (post-race interview).

You can find our full play-by-play of the race as well as a collection of our pre-race interviews and preview on our 2012 TNF UTMB Live Coverage page.

As usual, we’ll be updating this article with additional results as well as links to UTMB-related articles, photo galleries, and race reports.

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2012 TNF UTMB Men’s Race

In the men’s race, the peloton was let out by François d’Haene, Jean-Yves Rey, and Carlos Sa. Playing chase at Saint Gervais, km 20.88, included Miguel Heras, Jonas Buud, Csaba Nemeth, and Sebastien Chaigneau. After the crew made their loop through Val Montjoie and returned for the second time to the aid station at Les Contamines, D’Haene had broken off the front of the masses, and so had Buud. D’Haene and Buud continued to grind out their respective leads, with D’Haene also building his break from Buud. These fellas’ maintained their positions all the way through the finish, though D’Haene lost a little ground on his lead over Buud as he neared the finish line.

François D'Häene - 2012 UTMB

François d’Haene after winning the 2012 TNF UTMB.

Putting a strong showing in the best-race-tactics-of-the-year category was Mike Foote (pre-race and post-race interviews). For at least half the race, Foote sat out of the top 10 men and even in the low teens for his overall place. Slowly, surely, and what appeared to be methodically and intentionally, Foote worked his way up through the men’s rankings until he simply ran out of real estate to move up any more at the finish. This is what you call running your own race, and that led him to a sweet 3rd-place finish, a coveted podium spot, and all the glory of finishing for the second year in a row as the top American.

After working hard and seemingly strong all night, Euro fan-favorite Seb Chaigneau experienced myriad challenges that he rendered insurmountable by Argentiere at km 93.38. There he dropped after his eyesight failed (He’s recovering well.).

2012 TNF UTMB 100 Men’s Official Results

  1. François d’Haene (Salomon – France) – 10:32:36 (post-race interview)
  2. Jonas Buud (Sweden) – 11:03:19
  3. Mike Foote (The North Face – USA) – 11:19:00 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  4. Carlos Sa (Berg – Portugal) – 11:22:39
  5. Csaba Nemeth (Hungary) – 11:37:18
  6. Jean-Yves Rey (Salomon – Switzerland) – 11:43:48
  7. François Faivre – 11:51:32
  8. Arnaud Lejeune (Hoka One One – France) – 11:53:17
  9. Sébastien Buffard (France) – 11:57:47
  10. Tsuyoshi Kaburaki (The North Face – Japan) – 12:03:04

Other Notable North American Finishes (with overall place)

  • 32nd Luke Nelson (Patagonia/UltrAspire – USA) – 13:18:52
  • 34nd Topher Gaylord (Mountain Hardwear/Montrail – USA) – 13:21:18
  • 53rd Gary Robbins (Montrail – Canada) – 13:54:53

Full race results.

2012 TNF UTMB Women’s Race

By Les Houches, which was roughly 9 kilometers along the revised course, Lizzy Hawker was already off the front of the women’s field. She basically played games of chase with the boys all night, knifing out an almost 50-minute lead over any other woman and a 16th place overall finish by the time she returned to Chamonix. Not bad for a woman who told us she was in some pain a little over halfway through the race. With this domination, that makes five UTMB wins for Hawker out of the 10 editions held.

The second and third place ladies, Francesca Canepa and Emma Roca, also stepped into their respective positions by Saint Gervais (20.88km) and stayed there. As for the rest of the top 10 women, many of their places with respect to each other seemed like a helter skelter juggling routine, shuffling and switching all night long. In the end, early top 10 contenders, like Karine Herry, dropped from the top of the pack while the strong finishers, such as Rory Bosio (pre-race and post-race interviews), Magdalena Lakzak, and Fernanda Maciel, solidified their top spots during the final 30 kilometers of the race.

2012 TNF UTMB 100 Women’s Unofficial Results

  1. Lizzy Hawker (The North Face – Switzerland) – 12:32:13 (post-race interview)
  2. Francesca Canepa (Vibram – Italy) – 13:17:01
  3. Emma Roca (Buff – Spain) – 13:23:37
  4. Rory Bosio (The North Face – USA) – 13:43:10 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  5. Katia Fori (Tecnica – Italy) – 13:58:25
  6. Magdalena Laczak (Inov-8 – Poland) – 14:07:50
  7. Fernanda Maciel (The North Face – Brazil) – 14:12:01
  8. Amy Sproston (Montrail – USA) – 14:13:35
  9. Emelie Lecomte (Quechua – France) – 14:35:54
  10. Nerea Martinez (Salomon – Spain) – 14:58:59

Other Notable North American Finishes (with women’s place)

  • 12th Meghan Arbogast (Sunsweet – USA) – 15:14:25
  • 14th Krissy Moehl (Patagonia/UltrAspire – USA) – 15:25:57
  • 17th Helen Cospolich (The North Face – USA) – 15:57:36
  • 31st Stephanie Case (Canada) – 18:48:25

Full race results.

Krissy Moehl - Rory Bosio - 2012 TNF UTMB

Krissy Moehl and Rory Bosio running together early.

2012 TNF UTMB Articles, Race Reports, and More

Race Reports



There are 34 comments

  1. Anne Bugler

    Many congratulations to all the runners for those who completed the race and most importantly to my son Alister Bignell who made it in 35th place – what an achievement! My commiserations to the ones who unfortunately had to retire this time, what a blow.

    Fantastic coverage of the event with the dedication of the organisers, people giving out support, first aid, meals and not forgetting the fantastic support of the runners families and friends to ensure they kept going. I truly think these events should be televised all over the world like the marathons to demonstrate the ultimate challenges the runners have to face.

    1. Bartman

      Weather in the Alps does not recognize nor consider the Farmers Almanac or the Gregorian Calendar when it comes to creating winter like conditions. It does so without warning or permission. Name your summit day and most certainly the weather will conspire against you; be thankful when it does otherwise.

    2. MarkinPolska

      I think the UTMB may be at about the best time of year possible.

      From the Ciceron guide to trekking the Tour Of Mont Blanc:

      "It's not unknown to have a heavy dump of snow in the middle of August. The only certainty when it comes to predicting Alpine weather is that any long range forecast is bound to be unpredictable….often the best (most-settled) weather comes in the first half of September….To summarise: the safest time (weather and accommodation-wise) to attempt the Tour of Mont Blanc is from early July to mid-September.

      Since the UTMB falls one day before the first half of September, I'm not sure how much difference changing the date would make. And since there are so many micro-climates in the mountains, I'm not sure that a set "alternate course", as some have suggested, is feasible either.

      I feel bad for all those who saved up money and vacation time hoping to complete the full circuit of Mont Blanc, but perhaps this unpredictability simply has to be considered part of the race.

  2. Claus Bech

    I just spent a six days, 23rd-28th of August, doing the beautiful Tour de Mt. Blanc. We had 20-30 degrees Celsius (70-80 F°, I think) and just an afternoon of heavy rain. In just three days the temperature plummeted to 4-8 C°, with rain all day long!!! Next week looks great again, so it's just very hard to predict and very unfortunate for all the runners, who really deserved the mindblowing scenery.

    1. Pete

      Well the main problem is that rd fails to have a backup 100. After 2010 there is simply no excuse. UTMB as a collective should be prepared for this situation. Once again they weren't. All though with that said they did pull off a fantastic race. From what I gathered following it.

      1. Jill Homer (@AlaskaJ

        Pete, I disagree. UTMB is not a "100," it's a race around the TMB circuit. It just happens to be close to 100 miles in distance. A hundred kilometers is more of an official distance in Europe, which may in part have been part of their decision to route the race around a course of this distance (Of course I'm speculating here.) I too would have rather run a "full" distance, but I appreciate that they didn't inject tedious out-and-backs just to reach an arbitrary number like 168 kilometers.

        I carried a Garmin eTrex and recorded 69.8 miles and 19,600 feet of climbing. Given the trail conditions (slimy mud at lower elevations, slushy snow up high), it was still a pretty stout course, although I was as disappointed as anyone that they cut out the high alpine trails.

        Much more so than the Colorado Rockies, summer weather in the Alps is extremely unpredictable, and the window during which they can hold this race is very short. There could be hundreds of inches of snow covering the trails until July, and "winter" storms like this one can occur throughout the year. It's just as likely in mid-August as late-August. The race organization can never guarantee the race will go on as planned, and I don't fault them for not wanting to send 2,300 runners into sketchy conditions and then have to manage the fallout, which would have likely been severe. It's just the nature of holding a huge-scale race in the mountains. Hardrock would have all the same problems if there were thousands of people involved.

      2. MarkinPolska

        Considering that conditions can vary from peak to peak, or even on opposite sides of a peak, I wonder if a set backup course would be possible without running the UTMB only through the valleys. If they wanted to be sure of running on both sides of the mountain, they could include the Mont Blanc tunnel too — can you imagine?

            1. Alex Cooke

              …and Lizzy's not Swiss. Just like Ellie Greenwood is not really Canadian. Great coverage though guys,. Thank you.

  3. Albert

    I wonder whether thought has ever been given, in circumstances such as those over the past three years, to running UTMB the other way round? Aid stations would be in place and the more difficult sections would be run in daylight, and possibly better weather. Just a thought and there may well be good reasons which make the idea impossible. But I would be interested to hear views.

    1. Martin from Italy

      One of the problems with that idea is that the last part of the original course, which would become the first part, starts climbing firstly on broad trails but which quite quickly become single track, after about one kilometer. This would create huge queues due to the large number of people and would offer a pretty frustrating experience for all of those behind the first few hundred runners (about two thousand people). The original course on the other hand has a reasonably broad and flat track for 8 kilometers up to Les Houches and the first climb up to Col de Voza is also on a fairly broad track (at least 4 to 5 persons wide). This means that the only queues that are formed are in the first half kilometer in Chamonix itself.

  4. Andrew

    Interesting to read all the comments re shortening of race etc. I was fortunate to run the UTMB back in 2009, the last time the full course was run. I also ran Western States this year which was phenomenal in terms of organisation, scenery and friendliness. But the Alps are the Alps and highly unpredictable in terms of climate. If you want certainty of 100 miles don't sign up for the UTMB. Whilst I'm not clear on the detail of the re-routing this year I find it hard to believe that the best possible contingency was not put in place – say what you will these people know the mountains and what is acceptable risk. Imagine the fallout if someone had been killed on a re-routed course. It really is a case of being caught between a rock and a hard-place

    1. JimK

      Spot on Andrew. Critics are often those who've never experienced the speed and ferocity of the weather in the Alps. Stay home if you can't handle it. That's why there is such great hut system in the mountains of Europe. The huts aren't just for tourism, they save lives. Course changes are a part of life in the Alps, especially if you are climbing or skiing, let alone running.

    2. Roel

      I've returned home from Chamonix last night, obviously disappointed not to finish the full UTMB, but nonetheless happy about the alternatives provided by the organisation.

      Much has been said in this and previous comments about the organisation and the weather, but trust me, the weather was very poor. It was snowing (2-3 cm at 1800m, probably a lot more at 2500), very cold and windy (-5 to -10°C), and with extremely poor visibility. Stopping at the aid stations (even with a fire burning) immediately caused my hands and feet to turn into ice, and relentless progress forward was the only option.

      Even though I hated the decision of the organisers to reroute UTMB, I understand it, and even support it. Having 4000 people up high in the mountains (CCC + UTMB) would not have been a good idea.

      The alternative route was challenging (particularly considering the weather), but beautiful. And because Chamonix is surrounded by 3000m+ mountains, there aren't really many options to reroute the race without going above 2500m.

      The only real losers are the organisers, and particularly the 1800 volunteers and many thousands of supporters, that have been working so hard for this event. Despite the weather, they cheered, clapped, sang, yelled,… and provided us runners with a unique atmosphere. You probably should have been there to understand, I guess.

      And after all, it's only running…

  5. Nick J

    Speaking as a Brit I'm interested in why Lizzie is registered as Swiss? Does she have dual nationality? Is it because she runs for Salomon's Swiss team?

      1. Martin from Italy

        I don't think so Bryon. I am a UK national living in Italy (therefore postal and e-mail address in Italy) but I am registered as UK in the UTMB. They ask you your nationality on the enrollment form so I am guessing that they use this. Therefore I am also guessing that Lizzy, or someone else (team manager filling our form?) has indicated Swiss nationality on her enrollment slip.

  6. Ivan Dimitrov

    Hi, first time here.

    I think this year the news focus should be not only on UTMB but on the winners of TDS/CCC route too, because of the cut-down UTMB. I finished CCC and we did not had it easy at all. I ran 18:30 for the CCC and for only 2 hours it did not rain, and probably for 4-5 hours I was snowing. So, the race for me was 18 hours of running on mud.

    I think most of the runners were prepared for such a tough conditions, so I'm not sure if the rerouting was necessary, but for the next year maybe the organizers should require some running traction device like https://www.yaktrax.com/ I think the biggest issue for runners was the chance to slip in the snow/mud.

  7. manu

    Just a little correction about Seb Chaigneau dropping out : according to what I've read today, when he said he couldn't see anymore he wasn't talking about his headlamp but really about his eyes ! He had his eyes burned because of his tears freezing due to the cold. He now has to be careful with them for a few days.

    1. dogrunner

      Just out of curiosity, what % of all participants are men, what % women? Maybe the organizers are basing "podium" (which is a slightly odd concept anyway, as there is ONE male winner and ONE female winner) on proportionality?

  8. Anne Bugler

    Wow that sounds terrible news with Seb's eyes, I had no idea this could happen, what bad luck, also for Raol and all the others who couldn't complete. I've looked at all the comments so far which have been interesting about the course etc., but at the end of the day I think the organisers made the right decision re: the weather conditions. I was so impressed with some of the marshals on the videos who were situated at the top of the Cols with the worst weather conditions I have seen, what would we do without the dedication of those people to ensure everyone got back safely.

  9. Morgan Williams

    I am back in England now and have had some time to distil the experience of the 2012 UTMB.

    3 years in a row I have been to this series of races. I haven't run the advertised course once yet. Bad luck? Maybe. Never forget these are the mountains, and they don't take our efforts into account when dishing out the weather.

    It was nasty weather, but I've been out in much worse here in the UK. I wore shorts all race and was never cold.

    I also had a great race for me. I kept my quads in good shape and was able to run much of the second half, which accounted for much of my over 800 place gain between Le Delevret and the finish.

    I was disappointed in my mental collapse in the hours before the start, after the cancellation of the race and the fresh course was announced. I've had time to think about this since coming home. I know that adaptability, patience and humility are the key attributes to deliver when doing these foolish races.

    My dip occurred because of my own hubris. After all the miles of training and preparation, I felt that I was entitled to run the classic route of 100 miles. It was my due.

    My humility temporarily deserted me, and partly my patience too (though this is normally a quality I expect to have to deliver during the race.)

    I had briefly forgotten that these are the mountains and that they essentially decide whether we can run or not. We should cherish and be thankful for every race we run, even if the rules are changed on us at the last minute.

    Thankfully I did straighten my mind out before the off. I shall try not to make the same mistake again.

    My race report is here: [Broken link to Ilkley Harriers site removed.]

    Will I go back? Probably. Both the TDS and the PTL hold a fascination for me, especially the latter.

    Bryon, the Cascadias were magnificent; a few slips but no falls, no foot damage beyond one tiny blister on a toe end.

    And maybe I'll get to run in the US in 2013.


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